Charmel Bowden

Plan as often as you can with a destination in mind. Make your plans as specific as possible so you know when you succeed and when you fail. Both are an important part of the experiment. Rinse and repeat.


Charmel Bowden is a highly successful coach and consultant, located in Alexandria, Virginia as well as the founder and president of Vuela Alto Strategies. Vuela Alto specializes in supporting company leaders, up-skilling new managers, or equipping employees to surpass what they can do on their own to meet their performance objectives.

In addition to her time as a consultant, Charmel has worked in a myriad of industries regardless of trade, such as retail, manufacturing, real estate, hospitality, technology and banking. Prior to forming Vuela Alto, Charmel worked at Caliber Consortium, LLC, a consulting firm specializing in marketing and advertising services such as strategic planning, advertising, sales & marketing campaigns, branding, design and PR.

Charmel Bowden majored in Organizational Change and Leadership at Antioch University. In addition to her time at Antioch, Charmel graduated from the Burnley School of Professional Art & Design, where she earned her degree in Commercial Art, Graphic Design & Illustration. Beyond this degree, Charmel has also received two Associate of Arts degrees from Bellevue College – one in Business Administration and the other in Marketing Communications.

Outside of work, Charmel enjoys promoting various causes. Charmel always tries to encourage empowerment for everyone, especially for females of industry. For a time, Charmel held the titles of president and membership chair for Women Business Owners, a community of business professionals based in Seattle. Charmel Bowden is also a volunteer mentor for the Bridges Out Of Poverty program, which helps individuals get a better sense and understanding of empathy for working with poverty-stricken populations.

In Charmel Bowden’s free time, she enjoys many hobbies such as reading, sewing, or drawing on her ipad. Charmel has always been a performer, with a passion for singing and dancing that she’s used when performing in several musicals as well as doing ballet and performing in a semi-professional dance troupe while in college.

Charmel Bowden is mother to two children who she’s immensely proud of. One of them has her own business, and the other is is wrapping up college using his computer and artistic skills. Charmel has always been grateful she’s had the opportunity to raise and watch her children grow into wonderful young adults who are chasing their dreams.

Where did the idea for Vuela Alto Strategies come from?

Vuela Alto means “to soar” in Spanish. I wanted something that sparked curiosity, that meant something meaningful in my work and I was learning Spanish when the name was born. This business is an evolution that encapsulates years of business consulting, coaching and being a working mom.

My vision has always been to find my best self and help others find theirs. Strategic guidance along the way has always propelled me forward in times I didn’t feel I could do it on my own. I wanted a business that reflects my belief in our individual greatness that is often in need of some encouragement, development and support.
My focus has always been on helping businesses and people in them reach greater success; strategically, financially, collaboratively, and creatively with the grace and power of the big birds who SOAR.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

It is a well-honed routine. Years of trial error to find the right combination of fundamentals and the fortitude to build habits, one step at a time from the perspective of the person that I want to be. Being persistent is the key.

I wake up at about 6:00 am and meditate, exercise, read, journal, review my plans for the day.
During the day I spend my time between marketing, clients, and consulting project work. I do my best to keep it a pretty balanced effort. I choose one very specific thing at a time to complete. I follow the Big 3 philosophy, choosing the 3 most important things for each week and each day to prioritize.

I like to have fun and make little challenges for myself (Beat the clock or little rewards for sticking with my least favorite tasks or accomplishing a goal). It’s a way that makes things more interesting when I work alone a lot.

I’ve also developed a kind of OCD habit of finishing what I start. When I get up, I make the bed. When I make my meals, I clean the kitchen. At the end of the day, I leave my desk clean. I hang up my clothes at night. You get the drift.

I turn off my screens at about 9:30 pm. I review my planner (yes I have reverted to a paper planner), assess my progress, make my plans for the next day and roughly schedule it out, think about what I want to dream about, read a little and then use a meditation, affirmation, relaxation app to go to sleep by.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I do something creative like draw, or sew, or write a thank-you letter. Sometimes my best ideas come when doing my little routine things because I don’t have to think a lot about doing them so my subconscious bubbles up.

Other times I’m super deliberate in my brainstorming process. I find if I step into the role of the other person, the target audience, the ideal customer I can think outside my box by thinking about how they would think. I do like to talk things out, and I have been known to carry on both sides of a conversation.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The minimalism trend that has the underpinnings of care about resources, personal style, efficiency, simplicity, elegance, appreciation of fine things, meaningfulness and the ability to be nimble. There is a certain kind of freedom in only having a few things hanging in my closet a la Georgia O’Keeffe.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I think I’ve gotten really good at knowing my motivation mojo. I started tying my goals to the kind of person I want to be; disciplined, expressive, fearless, responsible, loving, generous, caring and have these things clearly defined so I always have a benchmark for how I’m doing. I find when my vision is clear, it becomes easier to take each next little step towards that ideal image of myself. The one that I’ll be proud of on my deathbed. How I want to feel about myself at the end of my life so when taking my next step it actually wins out over the bowl of ice cream, but also gets me over my inertia to get out and find adventure in the world. Having a clear idea of the kind of life I want helps me keep that balance of all things and the dance with the deadlines that surround them.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Get to know what drives your interaction with people. Look for the “I need this from you” or “I’m not OK” syndrome. If it’s based on a limiting belief, change your perspective about that decision as soon as you catch it. The things we spend so much time trying to prove are usually the most deadly to our self esteem and take a lot of time. Example: If I believe I’m not lovable and I’m always trying to prove I am lovable I actually hold the belief in place. Accepting ourselves works wonders. Determining our own opinion of ourselves is a process. It’s humbling, pride-busting and self-esteem building.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

When I tell people I have come to love routines, habits, and goals and that I think they could learn to do it too…many think it’s not possible for them to be that disciplined even though they admit there would probably be value in the process.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Plan as often as you can with a destination in mind. Make your plans as specific as possible so you know when you succeed and when you fail. Both are an important part of the experiment. Rinse and repeat.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Learn how to ask for what you’re worth and know what that is. Base your compensation on the size of the client’s problem, what it’s costing them and base your fee on the ROI for them when it’s fixed. I believe it’s important to have skin in the game, so I stick with them until we meet the goal even if the contract is over.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I started working with a gentleman who turned out to be a conman. It’s a long not so long story. But as soon as I found out, I shut down the business and put him out of business. At least for that moment. He’s gone on to do the same thing in 5 other states, not counting the one before me. I did whatever I could to take away his front, connect to the authorities, call clients & vendors. I cleaned up all outstanding debts with remaining funds and my own cash because it was the right thing to do even though it wasn’t my business, it was my reputation and my conscience.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I think there is an opportunity to create communities for 60+ women. Like pocket neighborhoods with communal garden, shared cooking, co-working and library space for gatherings, female style. Where women can combine all of their skills to make an affordable, liveable, environmentally run well community so that wisdom can be shared.
A place where women can come together to build their own systems as entrepreneurs developing businesses that contribute to the collective housing and needs of the co-op participants.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

The best $100 I spent recently was on a whirlwind road trip to look for places to move and put new roots down. I crossed 5 places off my list and kept the 6th. I’m really excited that I can now look forward to something more than a vague notion. I could have spent a lot of time dreaming and anticipating a place that sounded great online, but absolutely didn’t pan out in person.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

I like Trello. I use it for planning, scheduling, thinking and I can easily move things around and prioritize. It’s where I capture all my To Do’s and I decide from all my lists, “What is the one thing that would be the best to get done today.?”

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

That’s a toughie. You’re asking someone who has about 1000 books on their shelves and has no idea how many in their Kindle. Favorite fiction: “Five Smooth Stones” by Ann Fairbairn because it inspired me to think about community, politics, prejudice, education and living together as people. It shaped how I care about people in many ways. How I want to be in business with people. “Boys in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown. I was thinking about my business. Ideas like collaboration, bringing out the best in people, finding each person’s unique character traits, helping someone pull out the best in themselves. I found it very inspiring.

What is your favorite quote?

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage. – Anais Nin